"Hey there! Any chance we can spend a few minutes before rehearsal working out that bit in the Adams first movement?"
This morning finds me reflecting on the past week in two ways. The first, which I just realized after walking two dogs, is that I first met the Savage-Tillett family seven years ago when, in the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, I flew from San Antonio to Baltimore for performances with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society
(and other - well, PERSONAL concerns that while not resolving the way I then wanted actually did resolve in a way that was both best and necessary). Knowing this family has been a wonderful thing, as in the months and years following our first meeting they have become a second family to me and for that I shall remain deeply grateful.
On Friday, October 19, Washington DC's Great Noise Ensemble played its first concert of the 2012-2013 season as Ensemble in Residence at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on the currently being revitalized 14th Street Northeast. Having played with the group twice last year, there was no question as to whether or not I would have played this concert as I have relished the task of playing "new" music since graduate school.
On this program was John Adams' Son of Chamber Symphony (2007), a formidable companion piece to the composer's Chamber Symphony (1992). Incidentally,
Son of Chamber Symphony can be heard by Washington's audiences again in
May 2013 when it will be performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) at the Library of Congress.
In addition to the twists, turns, and rhythmic energy characteristic of John Adams' works, Son of Chamber Symphony features an absolutely fiendish violin duo - and I find myself grateful for intuition, as while practicing on Monday I had the thought that the first violinist and I should take some time together and "work it out", as they say...and just as the thought came, a message came from Andrea Vercoe, violinist of Great Noise Ensemble making the request.
It has been a pleasure knowing Andrea as a colleague and friend for the past two years, as I have now played two concerts during which she led the string section of Great Noise and many services in the region. She is a fascinating person: not only has she studied violin, but she has also traveled extensively throughout the world and speaks English, French, Russian, and Arabic. Not a "swinging from the chandeliers swaggering" type (an aspect that I find incredibly refreshing), Andrea is one who speaks softly, letting her work speak for her - and it does.
During the thirty minutes that we spent on those two pages, we of course spoke of bowings, tempi, timing, and played at many tempi - including that which Adams indicated and at which we performed on Friday night. Of course there was some laughter - there had to be, as this piece was a formidable one and we are both human beings - and both subsequent ensemble rehearsals and the performance went quite smoothly.
Sometimes it is difficult, especially as a freelance musician, to really take the time to get into a work with your colleagues. Time may seem limited as everyone juggles different daily schedules and some live in different areas of a city (or, in our case, different cities). Some frustration could of course set in as one remembers the ease of a school environment, one in which everyone was in the same place for most of the day, thus making the scheduling of rehearsals like this one much easier. As I have grown older, I see the absolute necessity of retaining the standards one develops during the students years and the paramount importance of not allowing outside issues to compromise the desire - and duty - to perform at the best of our abilities. It has been said that desire, when harnessed, is power - and the desire and duty to play well served, in this instance, for the two of us to work very deliberately and consciously in the small amount of time that we had, later taking the information gleaned into remaining rehearsals and keeping a steady, unwavering focus.
With that, I say thank you to my friend and colleague, and look forward to the next time....
The week before, I finally had an opportunity to hear violinist Daniel Hope in recital at the Library of Congress.. I have, for the past few years, wanted to hear both Mr. Hope and Christian Tetzlaff in concert, and there have been opportunities to hear both as they have both been presented in the Washington DC/Baltimore region recently. However, the stars were not aligning then as I had out-of-town commitments. This was not the case on October 12, 2012, so I dashed down to Washington DC, to sit with the others, all of us keyed with expectation.
When I am in town, I relish the opportunity to hear good performances, and recent years have included hearing the Baltimore Symphony, Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, many friends and colleagues in recital - and this. Daniel Hope is one of the most committed and powerful musicians that I have had the good fortune of hearing live (and, with the wealth of projects that he undertakes in tandem with a huge international performing career, one of the most fascinating minds on the world's stages), and I have to again say that I have never experienced a more compelling, insightful, convincing and pure reading of the Sonata in G Major of Johannes Brahms than I did on that night....
....it's great indeed to live in a region where one can on a regular basis hear great music played by great artists, no?